Skip to Content

Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip

Perhaps you’re familiar with the Seminole Tribe of Florida having enjoyed a concert or done a bit of gambling at their Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood or Tampa.  

Maybe you’ve heard these Native Americans are famous for alligator wrestling. Or perhaps your child received a gift or souvenir of a palm-fiber doll dressed in colorful patchwork.

If these are your only connections to Florida’s Seminole Tribe and you’d like to learn more — much more — visit the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation in the heart of the Everglades.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum welcomes you to learn about the Seminole Tribe of Florida. (Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley)
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum welcomes you to learn about the Seminole Tribe of Florida. (Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley)

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki translates to “place to know; place to learn.”  Living up to its name, this museum is worth a day trip if you are staying on either coast.

It provides a colorful, lively and factual introduction to the tribe’s historic struggles, their well-developed culture and their skilled artisans.

Not to mention their development of casinos and tourism.

And a stroll along the mile-long boardwalk behind the museum will acquaint you with the unique landscape the Seminoles call home: the Everglades.

Rambler Tip: To get here, you probably will be taking I-75 that crosses the Everglades. The road is known as Alligator Alley for all the wildlife, especially gators, you’ll see along the way. You’ll also see all sorts of water fowl and birds nesting, flying and hunting. Enjoy the journey.

Seminole museum: Location is significant

As owners of the popular guitar-shaped hotel and casino on the Seminole reservation in Hollywood, the tribe might have built their Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum right alongside to share the crowds.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki guitar hotel Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
The Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood is a popular destination that helps finance the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the museum.  

Instead, the tribal members honored their history and their hero by placing the museum on their reservation in the Everglades.  

The reason was that Seminole leader Ar-pi-uck-i (aka Sam Jones or The Devil) is buried about three miles east of where the museum stands today.

Jones literally saved the Seminoles from transport west of the Mississippi and extinction. And, when it was time, he facilitated the move into their Everglades. He deserves the honor.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is off I-75 in the center of the state and the Everglades. Getting there is half the fun. Map courtesy Google Maps

A very brief history of the Seminole museum

In 1957, the Seminole Tribe was recognized by the US government and land was designated for their use. Today, the Seminoles have six reservations in Florida. Big Cypress is the largest.

In 1977, the tribe opened its first smoke shop offering discounted, tax-free tobacco products on their Hollywood reservation. Then came the opening of the Tribe’s first high-stakes bingo hall also in Hollywood.

After community activist James Billie was elected as Chairman of the Tribal Council in 1979, he facilitated the growth of the lucrative gaming industry on the Seminole reservations. This led to other tribes across the country getting involved.

It was in 1989, when the Council wanted to expand the public’s knowledge about the Seminoles’ history and culture beyond gambling, that they conceived of a museum. It opened on Aug. 21, 1997.

Today, the museum’s permanent collection includes 200,000 pieces of art and historic objects.

A half dozen Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki takeaways

Anyone who visits this museum will learn something. Here’s a sampling of our takeaways.

1. Never give up

Today the Seminoles are proud that they are known as the Unconquered People.

They earned the designation because they are the only tribe of Native Americans that was never conquered. Nor did they ever surrender to the U.S. Government or sign a formal peace treaty.

As a result, they retained their sovereignty and were never relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi, a fate many other tribes suffered.

2. Here’s the beef

As you enter the Big Cypress Reservation, you’ll see grazing cattle. Turns out the Seminole Tribe is one of Florida’s leading beef producers.

The American beef industry started in Florida when cattle were first introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. They’d brought the animals with them on their ships.

But when the Spanish left the state in the 1700s, they wisely left their cattle behind. By capturing these herds, the Seminoles first became cattlemen.

Today they run the 12th largest cattle operation in the country, according to Wikipedia.

3. Watch out for their teeth (no, not alligators)

In the Everglades, saw palmetto is plentiful and much-used by the Seminoles. Its fan-like leaves grow on stalks that have sharp teeth along their edges.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki saw palmetto Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
Saw palmetto was important to the survival of the Seminole Tribe in the Everglades

These teeth and saw-like edges of the fronds were just as much an obstacle to the Seminoles paddling their dug-out canoes through the Sea of Grass as they are to anyone who ventures into the Everglades today.

Although these plants can be treacherous, the Seminoles had many uses for them. And the plants were an important resource for the tribe.      

Handmade palm-fiber dolls are on display at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley
Handmade palm-fiber dolls are on display at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

Their leaves were used to roof the traditional chickee huts. Their stems were good for fashioning baskets. And fibers from these palms formed the heads and bodies of the traditional Seminole dolls dressed in patchwork finery.

4. Family clans

The Seminoles were divided into family groups or clans that derived from the tribe’s story of creation. Today, the clan designations still exist yet not everyone belongs.

The clans have always been associated with and named after non-human entities involved in the Seminole story of creation. These include a bear, a racoon and the wind.

In years gone by, babies born of Seminole mothers automatically became members of her clan. A husband also went to live with his wife in her clan.

Tradition has it that when the last woman in a clan dies, that clan becomes extinct as happened to the Alligator Clan. Today, eight clans remain with the largest being the Panther clan.

5. Teaching traditions

Seminole children were taught tribal history, beliefs and ethics through the telling of legends or stories.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki 8314 seminole museum exhibit children Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
This cozy diorama shows Seminole children listening to legends at bedtime. The colorful wall hanging in the back is a video with Seminole women narrating the stories that are depicted on the screen. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

Often these legends involved animals who faced dilemmas or had problems. How they acted and reacted could be related by the children to their own actions and behaviors.

The legends could be told in a formal setting by an older male relative or before bed by a mother or grandmother.

6. A wealth of beads

Seminole women were distinguished by the number of strands of beads they wore.

The buying of beads at the trading post was prioritized over most other things except food. At home, the woman would hand-string them into necklaces without clasps.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki 8326 seminole woman tigertail widow Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
Taken in 1910, this photo on display at the museum depicts the widow of Tigertail, a prominent leader during the Second Seminole War. Photo by Julian Dimock.

A time-consuming task, each string had to be tied around her neck in the morning.  At night, the necklaces were untied to be stored in a homemade basket until the next morning.

What to expect on your visit to Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki

At the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, they take their mission to educate the public about the Seminoles very seriously. And they do a terrific job.

Begin with a 20-minute film, We Seminoles, that details the life, legends and history of this native people. The film is a bit dated and the audio isn’t always clear, but it holds your attention.

It features tribe members describing their lives in the Everglades using their own words and memories.

As you enter the museum itself, you’ll discover life-size figures dressed in authentic patchwork clothing. Arranged in colorful dioramas, each setting with its signage details an aspect of Seminole life in the 1890s.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki 8250 museum exhibit hunters Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
These hunters populate the first diorama you will see as you enter the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Photos by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

And instead of placing these dioramas behind glass, they are out in the open to be enjoyed by all.

Whether it shows people preparing and cooking food, celebrating the Green Corn Festival, crafting coins into jewelry or grinding coontie root into flour, the displays are well-maintained, a joy to discover and very informative.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki 8320 seminole basket Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
Colorful palm-fiber baskets are on display at the Seminole Museum. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

Dolls, silver and bead jewelry, baskets and wood carvings among other crafts also are on display.

The museum features a changing show of Native American artworks on the walls that you pass as you move from room to room.

A nicely stocked gift shop with some native crafts rounds out what’s in the main building. But before you leave, be sure to visit the mile-long boardwalk that starts just outside the back door.

It winds through a 60-acre cypress dome. We visited in dry season and found the dome feeling arid with scant wildlife.

But at other times, you can be sure it will be more swamp-like and populated   with alligators swimming or sunning and birds perching or flying overhead. Ample signage helps you identify plants and wildlife as well as providing information about Seminole life. 

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki 8507 seminole boardwalk Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
Enjoying the boardwalk through a cypress dome in the Everglades. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

As you walk, you’ll pass through the Clan Pavilion that details the Seminole beliefs about the creation of the earth and how the clans were formed as well as information on the clans today.

The boardwalk also takes you past the Ceremonial Grounds. And a recreation of a Seminole Village. This is a modern take on the attractions that the tribe created to lure tourists in the 1920s. Both were unmanned when we visited.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki What We Do Hm 1000x732px 2 Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
This postcard from the 1920s shows a replica of a Seminole village created as a tourist attraction. Photo courtesy Florida Seminole Tourism

Finally, you’ll see a replica of a Seminole hunting camp. Signage explains what Seminole hunters carried with them to exist relatively comfortably on trips into the wilds.

Rambler Tips:

  • If you didn’t get one when you entered the museum, you may want to ask for a Boardwalk Guide from the front desk. It will show you where things are located along the handicapped-accessible route.
  • The boardwalk is equipped with a rest room about half way around. And there are emergency phones along the route. A drink vending machine is available as you head to your left out the rear door of the museum.

Where to eat and stay when visiting Seminole museum

For those visiting the museum, a covered picnic area is available off the parking lot. Plus, there are restaurants on the reserve. Menus are available in the museum lobby.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki IMG 8339 Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
The nearby Swamp Water Café is a good spot to take a break from the museum. We visited between exploring the inside exhibits and walking the boardwalk. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

 Swamp Water Café

About three miles from the museum, you’ll find the welcoming Swamp Water Cafe that offers good choices for the hungry explorer.

There are burgers, tacos, hot dogs, rice bowls and baskets of fish or chicken with a few breakfast options thrown in.

You order at the counter and the food is delivered to your booth or table. A screened porch that overlooks a grassy expanse also is available for dining.

About the only native dish on the menu is fry bread.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki 8348 fry bread Seminole Museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, makes an excellent Everglades daytrip
Try the Seminole fry bread that is available at the Swamp Water Café. It’s served with honey butter. Photo by Deborah Hartz-Seeley

I’d had this bread at other times when it was greasy and lumpen. But the café’s version was almost flaky inside with a crisp, virtually greaseless crust. It was perfect for scooping up the last bits of my Chicken Rice Bowl.

 Swamp Water Café

  • Address: 30000 Gator Tail Trail, Clewiston
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Monday and Tuesday.
  • More Information: 863-983-6491;

Sadie’s Kitchen

  • We did not visit Sadie’s but were told it’s about three miles from the museum in the Big Cypress Landing general store and gift shop. Sadie’s menu shows a variety of breakfast options, sandwiches, subs, chicken and fish baskets as well as salads. It’s serve-yourself or call ahead for takeout.
  • Address: 32111 Josie Billie Hwy., Clewiston
  • Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours may vary so call for the latest information.
  • More information: 863-983-6591 (kitchen); 863-902-1783 (office)

Big Cypress RV Resort

Located about a half mile north of the museum, this full-service resort offers RV sites and cabins. Reservations required.

  • Address: 34950 Halls Road, Clewiston
  • More information and Reservations:  800-437-4102

If you go

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

Where: 34725 W Boundary Road, Clewiston

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except holidays; entry to boardwalk closes at 4 p.m.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors (55+), children 5-18, $7.50; children 4 and under, free.

Parking: Plenty of free parking is available with two spaces reserved for Tesla charging stations.

More information: 877-902-1113;

Rambler Tips:

  • The museum is on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, not in the city of Clewiston that is about 45 miles north. I had no trouble finding the museum with my GPS.
  • If you arrive in need of gas, it’s available at the Miccosukee Service Plaza on the reservation just off I-75. Here too you’ll find a Dunkin and the fast-food Garden Café.

All articles on are original, produced exclusively for our readers and protected by U.S. Copyright law. Any use or re-publication without written permission is against the law.

This page contains affiliate links from which Florida Rambler may earn a sall commission when a purchase is made. This revenue supports our mission to produce quality stories about Florida at no cost to you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.